Why Extreme Polarisation is Crippling Society, and What We Can Do About It

If in recent times you have followed the news, listened to podcasts or observed any form of pop culture, you may be feeling extremely worried or confused about the current state of society. I share the same sentiments. It definitely feels as if the world is in turmoil. Day by day we are being sucked into a deeper and deeper hole. Full of hate, division, confusion, tyranny, greed, hopelessness and angst. When you are met with a problem in life, it is in your best interest to solve it before it becomes all-consuming. This is the current situation society faces today in the wake of an increasingly divided political climate and a global pandemic. The question is: How does society navigate through these treacherous waters? 

Let us first address the chaotic political climate. In my opinion the problem of increasing division started with the sudden rise of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, in 2016. Donald Trump was the ultimate simplifier. Simplicity was his main appeal, as many average working class citizens could understand and relate to him. Where things got problematic was when Trump’s simplistic approach was utilised to popularise the ‘us vs them’ rhetoric. This is an extremely dangerous approach to take in politics. The proof is in the pudding. Go back to any time in history where this rhetoric was used and you see the absolute devastation it can cause. The Nazis, Maoist and the Soviot Union all have used this deadly (quite literally) rhetoric. Trump’s rhetoric slowly poisoned not only The United States, but countries all over the world throughout his 4 year reign.

It is human nature to combat hate with hate, no matter how many times we are told (and know) that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. So inevitably, once republicans started using this simplistic ‘Us versus Them’ rhetoric to spread hate towards the other side of the aisle, the democrats were quick to stoop down to the level of their counterparts and combat it with their own ‘Us vs Them’ rhetoric. This pattern unfortunately infiltrated every western democracy, including New Zealand. This tribalistic mentality goes against everything democracy is about. If I could make one sure bet about politics, it would be that not one person shares the EXACT same thoughts, opinions and beliefs. Politics is too diverse and complex to be viewed as a black and white thing. Nobody in a civilised democracy should be put in a box, and absolutely no one should be judged by the actions of a few outliers. The consequence of all this has been we are now seeing unnecessary hate and division, with no real logic or reasoning behind it. It is truly crippling society to the core.  

Then comes the pandemic. In my opinion Covid has added fuel to fire, sparking a global societal crisis that I would argue is worse than the pandemic itself. In theory, the pandemic should have unified everyone, brought us closer together and unified populations across the globe. Unfortunately, the complete opposite has happened, and is getting worse by the day. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum, all over the world are responsible for creating arguably one of the worst and most toxic political climates ever seen. From the Right demonising those who actually follow health and safety protocols, and popularising countless conspiracy theories; to the tyrants on the Left invoking vaccine mandates, which are arguably the biggest infringement of personal liberty in the history of western democracy. All are to blame for the shipwreck we have at this moment in time. Covid should have never been politicised, it has funnily enough probably resulted in the pandemic raging longer, while the pillars of western democracy have been crushed in the process. The scars on civilization from this turbulent period will last much longer, and have more consequences than the pandemic itself. There is one common denominator throughout all of these points however, one entity that has enlarged this hate and division like no other, The media.

The media is the main perpetrator of the issues currently facing society. Over the past 6 years the media has relentlessly been divisive, misled and hateful. Gone are the days where journalism was about reporting the truth, and only the truth. The golden era of media where issues were discussed and debated civilly using a wide range of viewpoints is sadly non-existent. Media has unfortunately turned into an avenue for political loyalists (Left and Right) to further their agenda, spread misinformation and demonise their ‘foes’. The best examples are the two biggest mainstream news sources in the US: Fox News and CNN. Both of these entities are guilty of furthering the political divide, especially throughout the covid pandemic. Fox News for example has been extremely dismissive of covid vaccines, despite the science showing their effectiveness. Instead turning the issue into a political problem, The vaccine was only for those ‘communists’ on the left. CNN on the other hand, has repeatedly demonised people on the right who are rightfully against vaccine mandates, labeling them ‘anti-vaxxers’, ‘conspriracy theorist’ and even ‘Nazis’. As you can see, both media outlets are fueling extreme polarisation, which is deeply harming society. The media purposely spreads negativity to get more viewers, as according to what psychologists call the negativity bias, things of a more negative nature have more impact on one’s psychological state. This is all well and good for maximising profit, but it is wreaking havoc across the political landscape and in turn society itself. So what must society do in order to get itself out of this mess?

The world is currently in a very dire situation. If we all collectively fail to play our part then chaos and doom will be inevitable. We must hope that we can carefully manage to manoeuvre ourselves out of our current debacle. It is in our best interest to slowly navigate through this pandemic (which is in decline) without giving up our freedoms that our society has been built on. We must listen to the science and follow accordingly, without discriminating anyone for their personal choices along the way. We must hold the media accountable for their actions. We must only support the sources of news which tell the truth and share a wide range of viewpoints without bias, not ones that further an agenda. We must all do our part as individuals, be kind to one another, show compassion, never discriminate against someone for any reason, constantly challenge your beliefs and sympathise with those who think oppositely to you. We must slowly take small steps to make society and the world a better place. We must unify now more than ever, before it’s too late.

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